English/Welsh as an Additional Language

Page updated on: 27/09/2019

Some children speak a language other than English or Welsh as their first language, either because they were born in a different country or because their parents speak a different language at home. In school, they learn English or Welsh as a second (or third) language.

They learn it mostly through the normal school day, through playing and socialising, and through learning other subjects. Research says this is the best way to learn a language.

Being bilingual has a positive effect on performance, and children should be encouraged to use their home language. It can take up to ten years to become fluent in a second language. Children learn social language first, and it takes longer to learn academic language. Like learning any language, spoken language comes first, before reading and writing.

The rate at which children learn depends on a number of things, including:

  • Previous literacy in first language
  • Age at the time of starting to learn a second language
  • Family background and support
  • Academic ability

Children need support to develop their language skills.

How will my child's school help develop their English or Welsh language skills?

  • Ensuring school is a safe, welcoming environment
  • Speaking clearly and at a normal pace
  • Avoiding idioms and colloquialisms
  • Making learning visual and multi-sensory
  • Reinforcing language – spoken and written
  • Planning collaborative learning activities, where children learn from each other, and good models of English.

Parents and carers should speak to their child’s school initially if they have any questions about their child learning English or Welsh as an additional language (EAL/WAL). Each school has an EAL Co-ordinator. The school may contact our Minority Ethnic Achievement Service for support.

Service Manager: Victoria Owens 01267 246755

The following Welsh Government document may be useful for more information:

Education & Schools